Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Debate: Obama Delivers On McCain's Home Turf

I know that the presidential debate last night started with the economy and then moved to international affairs. I'm going to comment on the latter first, because I saw it as more decisive. 

Perception is critical in politics, and John McCain was perceived prior to the debate to be the stronger of the two on foreign policy. His task therefore was to dominate and perhaps even deliver a knockout punch. Obama's task was to hold his own and come across as well-versed on the world's hot spots and as a viable commander in chief.

On their respective tasks, McCain did not succeed while Obama did. 

Was McCain more on the attack? Did he refer more to his experience while calling his opponent naive? Did Obama state that he agreed with McCain several times? Absolutely–but no matter. Obama not only held his own, but was able to launch his own effective attacks.

On Iraq, for example, McCain only wanted to talk about the current situation. Obama was more than willing to do so, but he also wanted to put the conflict in its historic context in terms of the mistaken assumptions that led to this conflict. In the following video, Obama pointed out how McCain was wrong on several counts:

There were two areas, though, in which Obama missed opportunities. First, when McCain said that we're fighting terrorists in Iraq, Obama should have said, as he did in the past, that they arrived in the country as a result of the war. Second, I was especially disappointed that Obama did not respond critically to McCain's statement that he will take care of the veterans. The perception is that since McCain is a veteran, he takes care of veterans' interests. Obama had a great opportunity to set the record straight before millions of viewers.

The fact is that McCain has a terrible record on veterans affairs. Over the past year he joined George Bush in opposing the Webb Amendment, which would expand benefits for veterans to help them pay tuition and other benefits at four-year public universities. McCain opposed it because he wants to keep more veterans in uniforms, not in classrooms. How else, if McCain is elected, can he keep soldiers on a treadmill of deployment to Iraq? (To find out more about McCain's non-support of veterans, click here to see what Veterans For Common Sense has to say.)

Regardless of these two missed opportunities, Obama acquitted himself well on foreign affairs, supposedly McCain's home turf.

On economic matters, what is McCain to say? The bottom line is that he wants to extend the regressive tax code of the Bush years. In the following clip, Obama points out McCain's additional tax cuts to oil companies, despite the cuts they've already had and their record-breaking profits over the past several years:

Now that the first debate is over, I'm especially looking forward to more on domestic affairs, especially during a time of financial turmoil. Obama must continually hammer McCain on how his support for deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy has done our economy immense harm.

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